Saturday, February 24, 2007

From a rapper comes great wisdom

Gung Hay Fat Chow - happy New Year. It is the year of the boar - flaming boar, to be exact - and that means it is supposed to be a really good year for some people.

Okay, the only connection to this post and the New Year is that it is about Jin, the rapper that had a hit a few years back - Learn Chinese. He is on tour right now, and has come out with a full Cantonese album.

Of course, that also means the usual press tour - and he talked to the Mercury News about the album, and how he left the large label to go out on his own.

But, here's a little dialogue that most PR people should read. Then re-read.

Q: Magazines seem to have trouble targeting Asian-Americans. How do you feel about pinpointing that audience?

A: With every generation, it changes, I feel like -- from mine, to my parents, to the next generation. You don't really know what young Asian-Americans are really digging. I'm starting to get over this. When I first started, I was like young teens -- 16, 17. Then when I got signed -- 19, 20, 21. So now, it's like the next generation that is younger than me -- 14, 15. I don't even feel like I'm in touch with them as I could or should be. It's something that I want to know.

Q:How do you keep a pulse on that?

A: There's always the old-fashioned way of talking to them.

How hard is this? Why has PR forgotten this - actually freakin' talking to people? We put so much value into the high-tech processes, that, to quote one of my favorite interviews with Al Golin - it's about high-touch, not high-tech.

Think about it - PR relies on research firms to find out what people are thinking. It's a psuedo-talking to these people, but it's just psuedo. You are not really getting what they are thinking.

Or, we talk to our interns. And, while I love the interns, those answers are so skewed it's a joke. They are feeding us answers that they (a) think we want to hear, and (b) are so spun from their PR classes that they are unable to think like humans. Plus, let's not forget where they are coming from - usually very sheltered Universities. When I argued this with someone, their response was that they loved their intern ... who came from Yale. Point AND match to me.

A few months back, I did a sounding of the interns I work with and asked that they not feed me the answers they think I want to hear, but to actually be forth right in their answers. What I got was totally different than others, because they knew I wasn't going to dig into the meaning of the answers, but that I just wanted their honest thoughts and feelings.

Now, I am lucky. Every day, I get to talk to college kids via IM because of my relationships with the Auburn bloggers. Now, that might be Southern-skewed information, which at times freaks out this Northern Jew, but it's a great way for me to keep my finger on the pulse of what is being said in colleges, views, etc. I also have other classes reading my blog, and am open (unlike other bloggers I could mention) to always getting contacted by them. All I ask in return is for baseball caps, or long-sleeved T-shirts. So far, two have come through (you rock Erica Elliot and Erin Caldwell).

Think about it - you have the opportunity, most likely, to engage different demographics. Talk. Don't be phone shy (another issue for PR). Actually listen (another issue with humans in general). Be interested in what others have to say.

If we rely less on technology and more on real public relations, we will only improve PR and our own career tracks.

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